Simple Weeknight Zucchini Pasta Sauce

By Alexandra Caspero on July 24, 2022

Looking for a fast-cooking meal? Try this summer zucchini pasta sauce. Rigatoni with garden-fresh tomatoes, zucchini and basil.

Keeping things simple for you today. This zucchini pasta is how we eat almost all summer; little this, little that and dinner is ready. If you like my Mediterranean Pasta recipe or my Cherry Tomato Pasta then you will love this recipe.

I actually had to make this one again after I took the photos because I couldn’t remember the ratios that I used. You know it’s a good recipe when you don’t actually need measurements- if you have more zucchini than this zucchini pasta sauce calls for, awesome. If you double the fresh basil, well- that works too.

No Parmesan, no problem; you can omit it all together. If you decide to add in fresh mozzarella balls and forgo the tomatoes… well, you get the picture.

I’m giving you a recipe for what I’m calling my zucchini pasta sauce because there is one, not necessarily because you need one.

rigatoni with zucchini, tomatoes and basil

Ingredients for Zucchini Pasta Sauce

For this simple zucchini recipe, here’s what you’ll need. Scroll down to the bottom to the recipe card for exact amounts and step by step directions.

  • Rigatoni
  • Olive oil 
  • Garlic cloves
  • Crushed red pepper 
  • Salt 
  • Zucchini squash
  • Tomato, chopped
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh basil leaves 
pan of zucchini pasta

How to Cook Zucchini for Pasta

This is one of my favorite ways to eat zucchini; caramelized until almost jammy and broken down. The cooked zucchini become the sauce, creamy and bursting with flavor. No butter or heavy cream needed!

Make sure to cook the zucchini down long enough for this to happen. They will first release a ton of water– keep going. The water will start to evaporate and the zucchini will almost stick to the pan and become golden brown, that’s the texture that you want.

Directions

  1. Cook the Pasta until al dente

    Undercook the pasta by 1 minute, then drain and reserve 1 cup pasta water.

  2. Saute to cook the aromatics

    While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, salt and red pepper flakes and cook for just 30 seconds, until fragrant but not browned.

  3. Add the zucchini and tomatoes

    Add the zucchini and tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until squash begins to break down. Add in the pasta and toss, adding a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water at a time, tossing the entire time to finish cooking the pasta and allow the zucchini-tomato sauce to stick to the noodles.

  4. Stir in the basil and parmesan

    Season to taste, then serve!

This simple pasta sauce is made almost entirely of vegetables. Tossed with rigatoni of choice, this easy summer meal is perfect for busy weeknights when you really don’t feel like cooking.

fresh cooked pasta

Tips for Perfect Pasta

I call for ziti or rigatoni here as the ridges stands up to the thick sauce, but I suppose other shapes will work. This sauce also tastes amazing on fresh polenta, either using cornmeal or my fresh corn polenta.

I know I mention this over and over again when I share a pasta recipe, but there is a trick to creating glossy, silky pasta. Undercook the pasta just slightly; this usually means 1-2 minutes less than what’s called for on the package. Then, reserve the pasta cooking water.

Now the magic happens. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce along with a few splashes of pasta water and toss, toss, toss. The hot water will continue to cook the pasta as it soaks up the flavor of the sauce. This is usually where I also add a healthy dusting of parmesan cheese to bind everything together, but that’s easily skipped for my dairy-free friends.

Top with lots of fresh basil and dig in.

pasta with zucchini, tomatoes and basil

More Zucchini Noodle Recipes:

If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag your Instagram photos with #delishknowledge . I absolutely love seeing your creations. Happy cooking! 

Print
pan of zucchini pasta

Simple Weeknight Zucchini Pasta

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: main, pasta
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Italian, American, Pasta, Vegetarian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Simple Weeknight Zucchini Pasta. Looking for a fast-cooking meal? Try this summer pasta. Rigatoni with garden-fresh tomatoes, zucchini and basil. Great for weeknights when you aren’t interested in cooking but want delicious food!


  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: main, pasta
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Italian, American, Pasta, Vegetarian
  • Diet: Vegetarian
  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: main, pasta
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Italian, American, Pasta, Vegetarian
  • Diet: Vegetarian
Scale

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces rigatoni
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound zucchini squash, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni to the pasta and cook until just al-dente according to package directions (undercook by 1 minute of the recommended cooking time.) Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Do not rinse the pasta!
  2. While the water is boiling, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, salt and red pepper flakes and cook for just 30 seconds, until fragrant but not browned.
  3. Add the zucchini and tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until squash begins to break down. Add in the pasta and toss, adding a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water at a time, tossing the entire time to finish cooking the pasta and allow the zucchini-tomato sauce to stick to the noodles.
  4. Stir in the cheese, lemon juice and basil and toss well. Serve!

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/4th serving
  • Calories: 493
  • Sugar: 3.5 g
  • Sodium: 468 mg
  • Fat: 18.2 g
  • Saturated Fat: 4 g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 13 g
  • Carbohydrates: 67 g
  • Fiber: 3.4 g
  • Protein: 15.7 g

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This recipe was first posted in 2018 and updated in 2022.

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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